The relief sculpture on the outer walls of the Chennakesava temple at Somanathpur is, as well- known by now, predominently Vaishnavan. One of the relief sculptures that might not fail to attract the attention of the beholder is the sculpture of Lord Vishnu in one of his ‘avatars’ (incarnations) viz., Varaaha avatara (the incarnation in the form of divine ‘boar’). As per Hindu mythology, it was during this phase that Lord Vishnu saved ‘Prithvi’ (the planet Earth) by bringing it out from the depths of the all pervasive cosmic waters.
The above photograph shows Lord Vishnu in Varaha avatara. One thing thatI noticed in the above sculpture is, the sculptor had taken some thoughtful liberties and sculpted the form quite uncommonly (and as opposed to what is seen commonly) in two ways. They are (1) the saved earth ‘Prithvi’ is shown in ‘oval’ shape and not round (as comonly shown in drawings and sculpted forms, even to this day); and (2) the saved earth ‘Prithvi’ is shown securely placed in the hands of the Lord, and not shown precariously placed and balanced in between the two extended teeth, tusks, of the ‘Varaha’. To my mind, it appears that the sculptors in the Hoysala period were given ample liberties to imagine and experiment with forms of Hindu gods and goddesses, which some of them had infact practiced and dared to depitct the mythological forms of gods and goddesses occassionally differently.